Fine Motor

Grasp Pattern: utilizing different sized and shaped objects during play supports the progression of development of grasp patterns which will lead to improved handwriting and school skills down the line. Fun fact, bearing weight through the hands (i.e crawling), helps hands get stronger, which will help develop appropriate grasp patterns!

Manipulation / Dexterity: the ability to turn, flip, twist, translate, shift, items with the hands. These skills are needed for the majority of activities as kids age, therefore they are essential to target and develop during play. It is a good thing that most toys incorporate some sort of tool or manipulative, so this skill is built into play! This skill can be encouraged by putting items in containers, pulling out, matching puzzle pieces, building blocks, and collecting items in the palm of the hand.

Gross Motor

Bilateral Coordination: Using both sides of the body at the same time. This can be through activities that use both sides of the body the same way (jumping with both feet together), or using both sides of the body differently (skipping).

Motor Planning: Thinking of a plan and being able to execute that plan! Challenging a child to create and complete an obstacle course is a great way to target motor planning skills.

Strength and Postural Stability: This one may seem obvious, but strength and postural stability are precursors to so many other skills! Building strength and postural stability supports attention, self regulation, as well as fine motor skills. Proximal stability (core strength, center of our body strength and stability) is essential for distal stability (stability and control at the end of our extremities). Target strength and postural stability during play via encouraging big movements, sitting and laying in different positions during play, and getting outside!


Tactile: Otherwise known as touch sensation.

Play that consists of many different touch sensations (hard wood, cold plastic, fuzzy, bumpy, silky, sticky, messy, etc.) allows the child to explore and expose their system to a wide variety of tactile input, which may lead to a more regulated tactile system.

Vestibular: The vestibular system is associated with the liquid in our inner ear and helps us maintain our balance. The vestibular system can be provided input by swinging, spinning, hanging upside down, and by moving our heads into different planes of motion. In addition to balance, exposure to vestibular input can support the tolerance of dizziness!

Proprioception: Knowing where our body is in space and knowing how much pressure to use on a tool or when throwing a ball. The proprioceptive system is provided input through the small receptors in all of our joints. A well regulated proprioceptive system will

Taste and Smell: these sensory systems can be targeted during mealtime play! Allowing a child to explore new smells and tastes in a play based manner creates an environment for them to feel in control of these sensations and eating expectations and may lead to increased engagement during mealtimes!

The goal of sensory exposure is to reduce the occurrence of dysregulation from sensory input.


The visual system consists of an ocular motor component and a sensory component!

The Ocular Motor component is the ability of the eyes to track objects, fixate on an object, and to look back and forth between objects.

The Sensory component is the ability to recognize visual stimuli when it enters the field of vision.

The majority of play incorporates the visual system, therefore it is very simple to support the development of visual skills during play, however there are ways to be intentional about focusing on the visual system during play.

Visual Motor: This skill incorporates both the visual and motor (gross and fine) systems. This skill can be targeted through play via completing puzzles, popping bubbles, playing catch, building towers, tracing shapes/coloring, and so much more!


Speech refers to how we say sounds and words.

Articulation goals can be highlighted through play e.g. parent/teacher provides verbal models of target articulation sounds.

Play provides an opportunity to carry over newly learned target sounds in an informal setting. The purpose of therapy is to carryover targets across multiple environments with multiple communication partners.


Language refers to the words we use and how we use them to share ideas and get what we want.

During play we can use language to:

  • Request and reject items, attention, actions, doing something different
  • Comment likes/dislikes, describe, use creativity and wonder
  • Practice conversations through pretend play
  • Ask/answer questions
  • Teach/learn